One of my favorite childhood movies is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (The 1971 version, not that Johnny Depp nonsense.) I love the film on a variety of levels, from its silliness and imaginative flair, to the way it not-so-subtly critiques the evils of greed, consumerism, narcissism and arrogance. Over the course of the story, we discover Willy Wonka is looking for an heir, and that his magical world is no mere chocolate factory: It is an wonder-filled environment designed to test the moral character of his child visitors and weed out those who cannot be trusted to responsibly and ethically manage the Wonka company once Willy retires.
As the movie runs its course, the visiting children are eliminated one by one. Probably my favorite elimination scene is that of Veruca Salt. Veruca is a demanding, spoiled child whose parents give her whatever she wants, immediately. In Willy Wonka, the Salt heiress encounters something completely outside of her experience: someone who sets boundaries says no. In her exit scene, Veruca dashes through a room full of geese laying golden eggs, making a mess and singing I want it now.
I love this part of the film because it’s fun and silly, with a healthy touch of dark humor at the end. Veruca’s song is catchy, the kind I find myself singing in the shower for days after I hear it. Yet, there’s more to this scene than chuckles and a memorable tune. The story of Veruca Salt is one of desire run amok. It is a cautionary tale of a childish ego that has been allowed to expand indefinitely without limits finally meeting a firm boundary. It is the story of the human race and our relationship with God. This scene touches me so deeply because it is my story.
I hope I’m a lot better at hiding my self-centered desire and impatience than Veruca Salt, but the fact remains that the spirit of Veruca lives in me. These are the lost and broken parts at war within me, which are the source of conflicts and disputes. James describes the spirit of Veruca in his epistle:
You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. (4:2-3)
I may be a little more subtle than Veruca, but there are definitely times when I allow the spirit of I want it now to take control, rather than trusting God to provide for me day by day. I worry myself sick about having things the way I want them to be, rather than dwelling in the patience and assurance that is the promise of Jesus to each one of us. In so many ways, I have failed to learn the healthy boundaries that come with being an obedient and faithful son of God.
What is your experience? Have you encountered the spirit of Veruca Salt in your own life? How do you identify when the sense of urgency you feel is anxiety and impatience, rather than the clarity and focus that comes from God? What does it look like to be redeemed from the spirit of I want it now and brought into the spirit of Thy will be done?